The Father and Two Sons

Theme: Back to Church Sunday

At this Eucharist I was invited to talk to the children and the adults. (Find scripts below.)

Reading:Matthew 21:28-32

New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Address and children’s input only

Children’s talk before leaving for junior church

There was a dad I know who recently said to his twin sons,

Listen without making any fuss tonight for your mam, I

want you both to do your homework while I’m out.

The first one said straight away,

‘I’m not doing any homework’ and ran off to play, but later on he did do it.

The other son smiled at his dad, and said, ‘I will dad, I’ll do it, but after his dad had gone out he sat down and watched the TV until bedtime and it was too late to get it done.

Which one did what his dad had asked him to do?

If any child says NEITHER, then congratulate them.

The boys in the story were actually both wrong! They were rude or lazy, when they should have been obedient. The Father who loved them was asking them a favour, and when we carry out God’s will there is great reward. But neither deserved it.

Also hold out a Mars bar.

Here is a Mars bar, it’s free to the one who simply takes it and receives it! I could say to myself, ‘Yes I would love that, and stay where I am, I could step out for it, feel everyone looking at me, change my mind and sit back down. Only the one who says Yes and comes and receives will be able to claim it. (Wait for someone to come out) It’s absolutely free, but we’ve got to motivate ourselves to win the prize.

. (they leave for Junior Church)


The story of how Jesus comes into conflict with the powerful and proud Jewish priests and elders, reminded me of something that happened to me as a child of nine in my school playground...… a toffee nosed girl, very intelligent and one year older than myself, was about to score a goal in a playtime game of netball.

Playing my part as a goalkeeper, I stretched up my arm as high as I could to prevent the goal.

The conversation went something like this…

She said, ‘You’re far too close get back!’

I replied, ‘Teacher said you must be three feet away, and that’s what I am.’

She said, ‘No you’re not, ‘

I said, ‘Yes I am!’

She then shouted, ‘DON’T CONTRADICT ME!’ as she brought the full force of her foot right down on mine!

So perhaps I hadn’t been three feet away, or she couldn’t have reached me so quickly!

I can still remember the pain she inflicted on me. Excruciating!

I retreated hugging my foot, hopping around and screaming out like a wounded animal, as she scored her goal. I got no sympathy whatsoever from her as she strode off back to the centre circle.

No penalty was awarded, no teacher near at hand to witness the attack.

One thing concerned me though, apart from the injured foot, throbbing away, and that was the question…‘What did the word ‘contradict’ mean’?

I found out later it means to oppose...or speak against someone’s point of view,

The chief priests and the elders of the Jewish people felt Jesus was opposing them.,

contradicting them by his words and actions, standing against their views and their laws.

They were so annoyed with him, that they came and interrupted him as he taught the people in the temple.

Jesus had raised his hand, so to speak, not as a goalkeeper, but as a defender of the people! He had just caused chaos in the temple, by driving out the greedy cheats, the fat cats, men who were practising ‘short-selling’ and robbing the poor

The holy temple, Jesus believed, was no place for rogues and dishonest men. The elders and priests must have been well aware of the shady dealings that were going on in their temple precincts and they had allowed it all to happen!

Secondly he had been raising his hand to confront sickness and disease, and had sent many sick people away from the temple HEALED of their diseases and sickness… and children were chanting and singing his praises. The leaders didn’t like the praises that were directed at him. He was to them an upstart, an ordinary man. Never mind the miraculous healings, who did he think he was? What right did he have to do this?

Thirdly, with an air of authority, he was teaching the people in a very challenging way with clever and very wise words that seems to contradict what they taught in the law.

So when they confronted Jesus, they demanded,

‘By what authority are you doing these things and who gave you this authority?

They were more or less saying he was a nobody, who knew nothing at all about the rules of the game; whereas they on the other hand were older, far more intelligent, more learned than he. They been playing the game so to speak, for a lot longer, had more ‘experience, knew more intelligent words …(just like my toffee nosed friend.) and religious phrases.

From the earliest times Christians have believed Jesus did have a unique authority to speak and to act. Ancient Christian hymns speak of the one that every knee should bow to. Before he ascended into heaven, he said to his disciples,

‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me...’

But this was not the time to reveal his authority, and by turning their question round and asking them a question which they refused to answer, Jesus instead went on to tell the story of the FATHER WITH TWO SONS.

He turns their question about authority into a question about obedience, and he had a direct challenge for them.

I must say to those who see the bible as irrelevant in this day and age, they only have to study parables such as this to see their relevance on the world stage of today!

Parables such as these Two Sons, Dives and Lazarus, the Man who Built his House on Sand instead of Rock...they are all terrifyingly prophetic and relevant for today’s world!

I was just reading last week an article which caught my eye. It recounted a quote from a former employer of the Lehman Brothers Bank, who sat crying in a coffee bar...

These were his words...

‘How did we become so undisciplined?

What allowed us to go on saying to ourselves, ‘You deserve it!’ when we knew full well that people elsewhere were ill or starving or working in sweatshops?

Now it is time for the guillotine. It’s time for the chop?’

Likewise the Jewish elders and priests saw themselves as righteous, secure, successful, important, who see no failings in themselves, only others.

They were quick to criticise and judge and lord it over others, when at the same time they themselves are far from a perfect relationship with God.

In them we have the son who says, ‘Yes,’ but fails to act out what he says he believes.

Then there are many people who have drifted far away from God and his church, who live exemplary lives, who actually give and love and care within the community and within the world, and these are like the son who has said ‘No!’ but they actually do God’s will, and are extremely generous and caring.

Which one of these two sons did what his Father wanted?

Jesus asked them.

The Jewish elders and priests replied, (as did our children)

“The first, the one who eventually did what the Father wanted him to do...”

You’ll note that Jesus doesn’t say whether they were correct or not!


YES, the son who eventually went into action proved more obedient, but neither brought pride or joy to their Father’s heart.

They had both shamed him.

There are some cultures where to refuse or shame a Father by saying ‘No’ to his will is the greater sin!

But the perfect child surely would have been one who was both obedient and dutiful!

But neither were!

I don’t know why we call this ‘Back to Church Sunday’. I would rather see it named, ‘Back to Faith in God’ Sunday.

The Bible says we have ALL sinned, we have ALL fallen short!

The real question we are all faced with today is

‘Am I doing the will of my Father?

Does, my way of life, my speech, my thoughts, my attitude towards others, please God or bring shame upon him?

Does it match up with what I speak out and believe?

There is a book by Kate Tristram about the life and character of St Aidan, as seen through the eyes of those who knew him. One chapter caught my eye, where King Oswald gives food from the banquet away to the poor at his door, (much to the disappointment of his rich guests I might add). But he knows that this action will delight the ears of St Aidan when he hears of it.

He says of his hero Aidan:-

‘There is no difference between what he teaches and what he is!’

Can we honestly say that of ourselves?

Jesus told another very similar parable of two other sons,(which we can read in Luke Ch 15) in which one son, repented of the way he had chosen to live his life, and he went back to his Father, rehearsing the speech he would say, dreading how he might be received back into the fold, worrying whether a crack would open in the ceiling of his former home when he walked through the doors of his Father’s home.

Those of you today who haven’t been in church for a very long time might know that feeling?

He was, to his surprise, SWEPT UP into his Father’s arms long before he got there, and restored to life and health, and a party was organised specially for him.

The other son, you know the story well, said, ‘Welcome home brother, we’ve missed you so much, let’s work together you and I, and make our Father’s kingdom great once more.’

Well that’s not exactly true, in fact he didn’t want anything to do with his brother. He believed he fully deserved his downfall, got what as coming to him. If his brother were to come back at all, it would be on his terms and his alone, from then on. His father’s inheritance was now all his own, and things would be done his way.

This very similar parable also begs questions for our churches today.

What was it that kept the wayward son from coming home sooner?

Did the attitude of the righteous son have anything to do with him leaving in the first place,

Did the attitude of the righteous son have anything to do with the penitent’s reluctance to return?

How can the righteous son ensure that the penitent will stay?

These are the kind of questions we’re supposed to be looking at today, according to the directives that have been given to church leaders.

These are questions we need to get to grips with if we are to grow together and move forward in our faith.


What shines out from this particular parable though above all else is the Father great love and forgiveness for his children, regardless of the way they have behaved towards him.

These two parables speak so much of the need for a ‘change of heart’, from HEART OF STONE (hard and cold, which says, ‘I don’t need to change’, ‘ I’m fine as I am’ )

To HEART OF FLESH, soft, warm, malleable, which says ‘I could, I should, I WILL return to a genuine faith, full of love which shows itself in action…

Ezekiel describes it as being given a new heart AND a new spirit.

We must repent (to turn completely around and go in God’s direction) in order to fully live life to the full!

A friend of mine, a Roman Catholic made a decision to return to church after being absent for many years.

As he knelt to make his confession, the priest asked him when he had made his last confession,

He replied, ‘Twenty–eight years Father!’

He expected the priest to speak some very stern words to him, but instead the priest put his hand gently on his head and said to him,

‘Welcome home, my son, welcome home!.

These are words which will sound out loud in our ears today, if we approach God with the same repentant heart, making new resolutions to really seek to please Him and follow His guidance for our lives.


In our heavenly Father’s arms there IS safety, security, and real hope for the future.

A song with really beautiful images in it of welcome, security, comfort, healing.from a new CD by Stuart Townend. Let us try to picture ourselves in every image as we listen…

Will you hide me in your shelter (Track 9 Stuart Townend CD There is a Hope)

Solo song or dance to CD MUSIC